A few of my favorite answers I have heard include:
* My husband and our kids, my 2 sisters, their husbands and kids, my oldest sister’s ex-husband and his fiancé, my parents and my Aunt Sally from Wisconsin. (We love her ex-husband. He made the funniest speech at her second wedding!)
* My kids, my ex-wife, her husband and his kids, his ex-wife and her mother. (My kids call her “Grandma Trudy.”)
* My husband and I are going to Massachusetts to see his sister, her wife, and their new baby. I’m sure while we are there we’ll visit my college boyfriend and his family. (One year they had us over for Thanksgiving dinner including my sister-in-law, but that was before anyone had kids, now it’s easier to see them on Friday.)
* I’m bringing my mother to her sister’s house. All of my cousins will be there including kids, wives, ex-wives, and one uncle who just got home from serving in Afghanistan. (We are all so happy to have him home; it would be a sin to leave anyone out.)
Of course, a common answer is “I have them for Christmas this year; and their Dad has them on Thanksgiving, so I won’t be seeing them at all that day.” It’s understandable, and reasonable. Sometimes it is good for a parent to have a little break from the kids and the ex-spouse.
There was one answer that I have to admit galled me. A woman I knew opened her home to her sister’s ex-husband, kids, and new wife, which was nice. But, she knew there would be tension between her sister and the new wife (the pre-divorce affair being part of the problem), so she chose not to invite her own sister. Personally, as ingratiating as this may be amongst the adults, I think it sends an awful message to the children. Let alone the long-term damage between sisters!
My sister-in-law Ruth likes to say, “the people make the time.” Meaning that whom you invite to your holidays is what makes the holidays special. I think she is right, and that who we exclude makes its own kind of time, too.
People get divorced for a reason (or, usually, for several reasons). If you are involved in a contested divorce (or just finishing or starting one), it is probably a good year to give each other breathing room, and maybe having a less amount of people at the table can be a good thing. But, once the dust has settled and you are thinking about the time you want to have, you might want to consider the possibility of mending old fences and bringing a wider circle to your table. It might just turn out to be one of the best holidays you ever have.
WHAT WE LOVE: The people make the time – who we include and how we include them is what makes the holidays meaningful.
-Sharon Oberst DeFala